Off the Top of my HeadBy Paul Murray
The New Zealand Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright was invited to address the Nelson Science Society on August 19, 2014 at the Old St James Church on the subject of her report on the use of Sodium Fluoroacetate (1080 Poison) to control mammalian pests in New Zealand.
N.Z. Government agencies the Department of Conservation and the Animal Health Board use 1080 poison to control possums, stoats and rats, which are deemed a threat to New Zealand’s native flora and fauna and are thought to be a vector for tuberculosis, which may threaten the health of dairy cattle and the country’s important dairy industry.
The use of 1080 is controversial in New Zealand and many people across the country vehemently oppose the continued use of the poison and in particular, the indiscriminate aerial broadcasting from helicopters over large areas of native forest and National Parks.
Many people also question the efficacy of the Government’s poison policy as the poison also kills many native animals in the process. Valid concerns over the ecological, environmental impact and possible human health implications associated with the use of 1080 are also widespread.
There is also considerable concern among N.Z. tourism operators that the poisoning programme is having a negative impact on New Zealand’s Clean/Green 100%Pure international brand and that it may deter travellers from visiting the country.
Dr Wright’s report “Evaluating the use of 1080: Predators, Poisons and Silent Forests” was released in June 2011 and controversially recommended that the use of the poison be increased.
Dr Wright spoke to a full house and presented her report in an attempt to convince all in attendance that it was based on a comprehensive study that gave due consideration to public concerns and incorporated all known scientific studies and information. Dr. Wright allowed questions after her address and I asked a question that she was unable to answer “on the spot.” She invited me to present the question to her in written form so that she and her team could provide me with a good answer. My letter is attached below.Paul Murray Managing Director Iltamara Ltd P.O. Box 54 Karamea 7864 New Zealand September 1, 2014 Dr Jan Wright Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment PO Box 10-241 Wellington 6143 New Zealand Tel: 64-4-471 1669 Email: email@example.com
Dear Dr Wright,
Thank you for coming to Nelson to address the Science Society and explain your report “Evaluating the use of 1080: Predators, poisons and silent forests.”
You may recall I asked a question after your speech that was difficult for you to answer and you invited me to present the question to your Wellington office for clarification.
Thank you for the opportunity and I would also like to ask several other questions that are of concern to me and many others while I have your ear.
The observations myself and many other Karamea residents of the 1080 operation that covered 54,000 ha of the Western Kahurangi National Park in 2008 is that rodent populations have exploded. We now have rat and mice problems in our homes and businesses that did not exist before the aerial 1080 operation, which was conducted by the Animal Health Board (AHB).
Rodents are extremely fecund and following the 1080 operation, they repopulated a zone that was devoid of predators (all killed by the poison) and with an abundant food supply, this lead to a rapid escalation in their population.
- Given that you accept that rodent numbers quickly recover after an aerial 1080 operation, is it also correct that stoat numbers also quickly recover given that, as you suggest, rodents are their main food source?
Please provide scientific evidence that aerial 1080 operations effectively control rodent populations and that the populations do not return to or surpass pre-1080 drop levels.
- Is indiscriminate aerial broadcasting of 1080 poison not resulting in an increase in rodent and stoat numbers?
Please provide scientific evidence that the use of aerial 1080 is not contributing to a long-term net increase in rat and stoat populations.
My concern here is that if aerial 1080 programmes lead to and increase in rodent populations, it would seem counter-productive to use this method to “control” rodents and by association other animals like stoats given that they are also fecund and their numbers likely also increase rapidly in line with the increase in rodent population.
Given that the overall essence of your report is to recommend that more 1080 poison be used in New Zealand, I have some other questions that are important to me and many other New Zealanders regarding the assessment and ongoing monitoring of the effectiveness, destructiveness and overall efficacy of the proposed 1080 poison operations nationwide by the Department of Conservation (DOC).
I note with appreciation that you recommend that DOC improve the transparency of its 1080 operations and improve the quality of communication with the public. I also appreciate that you recommended the AHB be subjected to the Official Information, and the Ombudsmen acts.
- Should the AHB (now known as OSPRI or TB-Free New Zealand) have conducted any follow-up studies to determine the efficacy of the 2008 1080 operation in the Western Kahurangi National Park? (Studies showing reduction in possum numbers, TB infection rates, impact on non-target native species etc.)
- Should DOC have scheduled any pre-drop monitoring programmes to determine possum, stoat and rat numbers and native bird and animal populations in the drop zones ahead of the 1080 operations scheduled for the Kahurangi National Park in the coming year?
- Should DOC conduct ongoing monitoring procedures after the 1080 poisoning and throughout the life of the consent to determine the efficacy of the pesticide operation and gauge the extent of the loss of native birds, invertebrates, insects and aquatic life (non-target species) and the long-term impact on the populations of pests and non-target species in the drop zones and for the life of the consent?
- Should DOC monitor of water quality in the poison zone following 1080 drops to measure possible contamination of water resources in the area throughout the life of the consent?
- What contingency plans should DOC have to mitigate the potential negative effects of the 10-year poison programme on local tourism?
- How should DOC notify the public of the extent, location and timing of drops during the life of this consent if granted? (Given that DOC 1080 operations are now deemed “Non-Notifiable)
I am a Karamea tourism business operator. I also have a permaculture farm in the region that has been pesticide free for 10 years.
I feel that the proposed 1080 operation by the DOC will compromise both the marketing strategy for my tourism businesses and also the pesticide-free status of my permaculture farm.
I also own and maintain a Web site promoting the Heaphy Track and administer a FaceBook page for the Heaphy Track I am also a member of the Karamea Estuary Enhancement Project I actively support DOC activities in the Kahurangi National Park as evidenced by my involvement in promoting DOC facilities and projects in the region.
My businesses in Karamea also provide logistical support, services and facilities people utilising DOC facilities in the Kahurangi National Park, I work with DOC on a daily basis and appreciate that pest control over such a large estate is a difficult challenge. I also support pest-specific possum control initiatives conducted by DOC and the AHB in the Kahurangi, but strongly oppose the broad-scale, indiscriminate broadcasting of 1080 pesticide over a vast region of the park as I consider it:
- A threat to the quality of life for myself and my family
- Raises health concerns for myself and my family
- Has a serious negative impact on my business activities in Karamea
- Violates the nation’s “Clean Green/100%Pure” brand that is used to promote New Zealand internationally.
- Compromises the marketing strategy of my business and indeed the entire nation.
- Compromises my efforts to maintain a pesticide-free permaculture farm
Myself and many other Karamea residents publicly opposed the aerial 1080 operation conducted in the Kahurangi National Park by the AHB in 2008 and my position and that of the other residents on the issue has not changed. We find aerial 1080 pesticide operations to be an unacceptable solution to possum control and evidence suggests it creates a raft of other problems in the forest.
Scientific studies show that rat populations explode after aerial 1080 operations and that was certainly the observation of people living in Karamea following the 2008 poison programme and rat numbers in and around the town are still high in my experience. Prior to the 2008 1080 poisoning, I hadn’t seen a rat in the town, however, soon after the aerial pesticide operation, rats began to invade our homes and businesses. It’s ironic that the rats you say are one of the targets of the proposed 1080 programme are resultant from the last poison operation.
Poisoning vast areas of the national park leads to an elevation in rat numbers in the poison zone. Rats quickly repopulate the poisoned forest and come into an area devoid of predators and with an abundant food supply and their numbers are shown to surpass population levels that existed in the area prior to the pest-control operation. Surely then the use of 1080 poison is a redundant strategy as is exacerbates the problem.
Following the experience of the 2008 AHB drop and the associated negative impact on and restriction to my business trade, I requested DOC give me advanced notice of any scheduled similar aerial 1080 poison operations in the Kahurangi National Park so I can inform all potential customers that my business will be closed for the duration of the programme and for at least one month following to ensure all risk associated with the baits has passed and the pesticide has broken down in the soil to “harmless by-products,” or until all green baits have decomposed.
I consider this the only responsible action I can take to protect the reputation of my business, honour my marketing strategy—in which I actively invite people from all over the world to visit the pristine, pure, clean, green and scenically beautiful environment in the Karamea region—and prevent the risk of possible exposure to the poison of guests staying at my accommodation facilities and utilising my transport service.
I have established good standing as a professional eco-tourism operator over the past 10 years and I consider that the proposed aerial 1080 operation is a serious threat to that hard-earned reputation. If my business continues to host guests during and immediately after the 1080 poison programme, I risk my business marketing strategy being considered specious and hypocritical given that they way I promote my business is contrary to inviting people to come and visit a poisoned forest.
There will be a significant financial loss incurred by my business by closing for which I reasonably expect to be compensated. Would you please provide me with information as to how I might file a business compensation claim so that I might recover the losses incurred resulting from the interruption to my business and restriction to trade?
I am not opposed to pest-control and appreciate that national park management is a considerable challenge for DOC, but ask that any pesticide use specifically target the pest in question. I strongly oppose broad-scale indiscriminate aerial poisoning of vast regions of DOC administered land in the name of New Zealand and New Zealanders. I appreciate your consideration of the issues I have raised and hope to receive a full response to the questions I have asked in this letter.
Should you have any questions, or require more information, please e-mail, or call me any time.
(Managing Director Iltamara Ltd)www.LivingInPeace.com www.KarameaFarmBaches.co.nz www.RongoBackpackers.com www.KarameaConnections.co.nz
*** The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s Report on 1080: “Evaluating the Use of 1080: Predators, Poisons and Silent Forests” can be downloaded here: